FARGO - The city’s Downtown Community Partnership is happy that there has been a boatload of gift cards sold this past holiday season. Now they’re asking you to use them.

Melissa Brandt, the DCP’s president and CEO, says there are nearly $120,000 in unused gift cards floating around in wallets, purses and nightstands. In December alone, more than 650 gift cards were loaded with more than $45,000 in cash.

Brandt says now is the time to use them at any of the dozens of downtown area shops, bars, restaurants and other retailers that badly need cash flow to make it through the traditionally slow post-holiday time and get to where the COVID-19 pandemic is capped off and business returns to something more normal.

“We want to encourage the community to redeem them. We have not seen a lot of redemptions,” Brandt said Monday, Jan. 4. “Hey, if you want to do your part to support local businesses, this is a great way to do it.”

Often, people simply forget they have them, she said.

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“When I go into my wallet, and I see all these gift cards and then when I go in (to a shop), I forget to use them,” Brandt said.

Melissa Brandt is president and CEO of the Downtown Community Partnership. Forum file photo
Melissa Brandt is president and CEO of the Downtown Community Partnership. Forum file photo

“I get calls all the time from community partners saying, ‘How can I help? How can I help?’” she said. “We have a lot of big companies that invested money in those gift cards for their employees. Hey, come and spend them. Easy enough, right?”

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Tom Smith, an owner of Great Northern Bicycle Co., said the money has already been spent to buy the cards. Not using them leaves that cash in limbo. The next couple months is the prime time to get those gift card dollars to the merchants that need them.

“Everyone has been impacted by this last year of COVID,” Smith said. “I think using those dollars right now to get money into the downtown retailers and the bar and restaurant community, the timing couldn’t be more important.”

Erin Reiner, the general manager at Atomic Coffee, said shoppers stopping by and using their cards “would help a lot at this point. It’s been a tough few months, almost a year at this point (of the pandemic). We’d love to have people who have been holding on those gift cards come and use them.”

A view of the new Downtown Fargo Gift Card. Eric Dallmann of Adaptive Marketing / Special to The Forum
A view of the new Downtown Fargo Gift Card. Eric Dallmann of Adaptive Marketing / Special to The Forum

Sam Corr, the owner and head brewer at Drumconrath Brewing Co., says “it’s critical” to get those gift card dollars circulating.

“I would imagine the other hospitality sectors would say the same thing,” Corr said.

“I don’t think there’s any of us doing well. I know we’re hurting in our taproom. Our sales numbers are about half of what they were this summer, and even at that, we were 30% below where we were before COVID,” Corr said.

“Stop in for a pint or two. We’re open. You can come in and sit down, we’re socially distanced. We ask you to keep your mask on as often as you can. We’ve got sports on the big screen. We’ve got fresh, locally made beer,” Corr said. "We’re right here downtown. It doesn’t get any easier than that.”

To find a list of downtown businesses that accept the Downtown Gift Card go online to downtownfargo.com. Cards can also be purchased on the website, at the Radisson Blu hotel and at the Downtown Community Partnership office at 207 4th St. N. Cards can be loaded with any amount from $20 to $500. There is a $4 shipping/activation fee per card.

Brandt emphasized that it’s important to get the cash from the cards to merchants to help keep their doors open.

“Put it back in their registers. Go in there and visit them, or call them. Buy product or take out. That’s a great way to support them,” Brandt said.